If you’re a regular at the weight rack, you likely have a range of rep schemes in your training arsenal. Drop sets, monster sets, giant sets, supersets, tri-sets—even if they aren’t part of your current workout plan, odds are that you’re at least familiar with them. Ditto for pyramid sets, which bodybuilders have been using since before Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Olympia heyday to pack on strength and size.
The traditional way to do pyramid sets is to start with high reps of a light weight and work your way up to just a few reps of a heavy one. In practice, that might mean doing 12 reps for your first set, and then doing 10, eight, six, and four reps in successive sets. As the weight goes up, the reps go down, and in the process, the goal is to achieve a wicked pump. By performing both high rep/low weight and low rep/high weight sets, you’ll hammer both your endurance-oriented type I fibres and your power and strength-focused type II fibrees, thereby maximising your growth stimulus—at least, that’s the theory.
The reality is that by the time you reach your heaviest sets (i.e., the ones that increasingly target your type II fibres, which have the greatest growth potential), your muscles are already partly smoked, preventing you from performing as many reps as you would if your muscles were fresh. That’s why many top trainers now regard classic pyramid training more with nostalgia than practical purpose.
Your move: Flip the script and do reverse pyramid training instead. You’ll start out with four to eight reps of your heaviest weight, and then reduce the load by 10 percent in each successive set (up to four total) as you progressively increase your rep count by two.
This strategy has two advantages: first, you’ll target your type II fibres when they’re freshest, and second, you’ll hit your more fatigue-resistant type I fibres later on when they’re supposed to shine anyway. In short, you’ll not only work both of your main fibre types, but also maximise the growth stimulus for each.
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